San Jose (25-13-0) at Arizona (14-20-2)

Clear Currently: Glendale, AZ
Temp: 54° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Sat Dec 30, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Curtis Joseph has never won the Vezina Trophy or led his team to the Stanley Cup title. In the midst of the worst season of his career and with the Phoenix Coyotes having the third-fewest points in the NHL, he is unlikely to accomplish either this season.

Joseph can reach a milestone on Saturday, though, to help secure his place among the top goaltenders in NHL history.

If Joseph can continue his dominance of the San Jose Sharks and lead Phoenix to a home-and-home sweep of its Pacific Division rival, he will record the 437th win of his career to tie Jacque Plante for fifth all-time among goalies.

“We’re starting to play well, especially considering how bad we were at the beginning of the year,” Joseph said. “We’re getting back to being a better team, one with a chance at the playoffs.”

Joseph stopped 27 shots in the Coyotes’ 3-2 road win on Thursday to improve to 33-10 in 44 career starts against the Sharks (25-13-0), having beaten them more than any other opponent. Joseph, who has a 2.16 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in those appearances, had lost his previous two games against San Jose this season.

“Against one of the best teams in the league, you need to do a lot of things right, and you need to be a little lucky,” Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. “Our guys played hard, our power play was excellent … and Curtis was outstanding.”

The 39-year-old Joseph, who made his NHL debut with St. Louis during the 1989-90 season, is 8-14-0 with a 3.36 GAA in 26 appearances this season. Joseph has finished a losing record only once in his career, and ended a personal three-game losing streak Thursday.

Joseph’s latest win came thanks to Yanic Perreault’s goal with 40.9 seconds left, his second game-winner of the season, after San Jose had blown a 2-0 lead. The Sharks finished 2-4 on their six-game homestand.

“We just kept working all night,” Perreault said. “I got a rebound, and I had a bit of time, so I went around the net. … It’s huge for us (to win late). Lately, it’s been the opposite for us. We’ve been losing in the last minute, or the last few seconds.”

The Coyotes (14-20-2) ended a three-game series skid—a stretch in which they did not convert any of their 14 power-play opportunities—as they went 2-for-4 with the extra man on Thursday. San Jose allowed more than one power-play goal for the sixth time this season.

“I have to give our team credit for competing, but we have a lot of passengers (who) don’t realize the bus has already left,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “They’re important people who aren’t competing very hard, and when you aren’t competing very hard, you’re setting a poor example for the rest of the team.”

Phoenix is 2-0-1 in its last three games as captain Shane Doan has chipped in two goals and an assist. The Coyotes were 2-5-1 in their previous eight contests and Doan failed to record a point in any of them.

San Jose center Joe Thornton has 16 points over the last 10 games for San Jose after having a goal and an assist Thursday.

Thornton hopes to help the Sharks win in Phoenix for the fourth straight time and avoid giving up the game’s first goal for the seventh consecutive game. The Sharks trailed 2-0 less than 23 minutes into Thursday’s game.

“We’ve got to come out of the gate a lot stronger,” Thornton said. “We should have played better.”

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Saturday, Dec 30